If I could travel to the past, 13 things I would do differently (without risking my current existence)

Time travel is a dangerous piece of business.

I have argued that the greatest super power - without question - would be the ability to travel in time. That said, I have also argued that I would prefer that this power only send our hero forward in time, to see the disasters that loom ahead and perhaps prevent them, rather than travel back in time and potentially unravel everything that has already happened. 

With that in mind, I thought about my own past. I am supremely happy with where I am today and would never risk the existence of my wife and children in order to change something in the past, but if I could go back in time and change something, I wondered what I might change that would not risk my present state of being. 

So I made a list. It's short, because large scale changes could alter my entire future. Though I would like to avoid being arrested and tried for a crime I did not commit or the armed robbery that has led to a lifetime of post traumatic stress disorder, those experiences helped me to land where I am today. I had to be careful and choose only those moments that are worth changing but would also not alter the course of my life to any great degree. 

Keeping these parameters in mind, here is my list of things I would change in my past if given the opportunity:  

  • Complete my Eagle Scout service project earlier - before a car accident interfered with my dream of becoming an Eagle Scout

  • Listen to audiobooks sooner rather than thinking of them as "not real reading"

  • Don’t turn down that possible threesome opportunity I had when I was 19 years old

  • Begin playing golf by taking actual lessons and not the occasional advice of friends who clearly did not have my best interests at heart

  • Visit my mother more often before her death

  • Punch Glenn Bacon in the face after he threw a music stand into mine in eleventh grade

  • Visit with Laura - my high school girlfriend - more often before her death and assure her that I would keep my promise

  • Complete my Master’s program both slowly and efficiently rather than quickly and expensively

  • Attend my grandfather's funeral

  • Increase the cost of my DJ service much earlier in my company's career

  • Don't call Pirate - our dog - back across the street and into the path of a speeding pickup truck while waiting to be picked up for Sunday school

  • Keep my flute in a safe place, stop lending it to students who forgot their flute, and ultimately prevent its theft from my classroom

  • Make that investment in Citigroup in 2008 that I talked about constantly but failed to execute

An important corollary on the two greatest super powers of all time

Last week I wrote that the two greatest super powers of all time are immortality and time travel, with teleportation coming in a possible, albeit distant third.

I'd like to offer a corollary on this:

1. If you're not interested in living forever, then I am willing to acknowledge that immortality might not be the greatest super power for you. But you must also be willing to admit that until you actually face death, you might be wrong about your distaste for immortality.

As someone who has faced death three times (and actually died twice), I can assure you that immortality is appealing.

2. Time travel is better than teleportation or any other super power because of the ability to see into the future and warn humanity about (and perhaps even prevent) certain natural disasters and other calamities.

  • Alert authorities about the September 11 attacks in order to stop the terrorists and save lives.
  • Issue evacuation warnings ahead of earthquakes, tidal waves and other natural disasters. 
  • Stop George Lucas from creating Jar Jar Binks.

It would be an enormous burden on the person with this super power, but morally and ethically speaking, how could you not acknowledge that this power is better than the ability to pop in and out of New York City without having to deal with traffic?   

3. There was some concern over the dangers of traveling into the past and catastrophically altering the future in which the time traveler lives (and possibly threatening his or her very existence in the process). There were also concerns over the potential for paradoxes.

While traveling into the past would be appealing, concern over these issues could be mitigated by simply traveling into the future only, and only traveling for observational purposes. A time traveler need only to travel to a library and spend some time reading newspapers or history books in order to find the information he or she needs while risking almost nothing in terms of unintentionally changing the course of human events 

If you're not convinced now, I don't know what to do.

The two best super powers of all time (one of them is not teleportation)

My wife, Deadspin, and many others argue that teleportation is the greatest of all the super powers. 

Teleportation would be an amazing super power to possess. I would love to be able to teleport from location to location instantly.

I think it may be the third best super power.

But objectively, the best super powers, in this order, are:

  1. Immortality
  2. Time travel

All others - including teleportation - pale in comparison.

Super secret time travel for the purposes of behavior management

I took this picture of my daughter walking past this particular car in order to convince her at some point in the future that the photograph was taken in the late 1970’s.

“Time travel, Clara! Daddy is capable of time travel! So do you’re homework, damn it, or I’ll send you back to 1987 when Rick Astley’s music wasn't ironic but was actually taken seriously. Think about it! ”